Category Archives: one paragraph

One Paragraph 20

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (viewed in theaters 16 April 2014)
A pretty decent superhero film, definitely better than the first one, though I understand the need for the latter for the former to make sense. There weren’t really any surprises in this film, though Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) managed to get through a third entire full length feature film without unnecessarily becoming some other character’s love interest. (Ugh; can you imagine? Uuuuugh.) I like that Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is portrayed as chaotic good, more or less. Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson’s) car chase scene seemed unnecessary, but it was nonetheless fun. (Though I admit it would’ve been less fun if he hadn’t survived it.) The Winter Soldier doesn’t break out of the superhero/villain mold, but it doesn’t try to, and that’s okay.

Mulan (viewed 06 April 2014 at home)
Mom’s choice for family night after she discovered that Dad had never seen it. (The rest of us were also properly offended, of course.) Good movie, though I had forgotten how violent and creepy the Huns actually were. Watching the film makes me want to learn more about the legend of the woman who inspired it, though I’d prefer reading a book for children at first since my knowledge of Chinese history is at a very primary school level at this point. Watched the deleted scenes for the first time and realized that some things are deleted for a reason. Also, I was perturbed that the main directors and artists, etc., were all white men. It irritates me that they took a Chinese legend and basically appropriated it into Western culture. Ugh.

The Littlest Rebel (watched 30 March 2014 at home)
Grandma’s family night choice, “in memory of Shirley Temple” (who died in February). Now, I realize that it was produced in 1935, but honestly, the racism apparent in this film is atrocious. The use of black face, the slaves afraid of being freed by the Union, and the slaves as part of the family is just… too romantic for me to swallow. The only half-decent thing about it was that it made me think about my education in regards to the Civil War, which was strongly biased toward the Union and against the Confederacy… and for good reason, you’d think. In this film, the Confederates are the good guys (or, at least, the title character’s father, who is a Confederate officer, is a good guy) and the Union soldiers don’t do anything for their cause by ransacking and then burning down the family home. Oh, and also, the mother dies, and nobody ever ever looks that good on their deathbed.

Gravity in 3D: see One Paragraph 18
Though I’d have liked to watch this through again, I already saw Gravity in October, and since it started at 10:15 PM after having watched three movies that day already and I had work the next morning at 7 AM, I decided to cut and run while I was still feeling not terrible.

American Hustle (viewed 01 March 2014 in theaters as part of AMC Best Picture Showcase 2014)
Best disclaimer a movie’s ever had: “Some of this actually happened.” Seriously. The costumes were amazing; the story was ridiculous. Don’t know how I feel about Christian Bale with a combover, but he certainly acted the skeevy-car-salesman type well. Reminded me of a lower class version of the guy Leonardo DiCaprio played in The Wolf of Wall Street. By this point, I had also noticed that seven of the nine Oscar nominees for Best Picture were based on true stories, and the remaining two (Nebraska and Gravity) were films that could’ve easily been based on true stories; they were all basically realistic/historical fiction.

Her (viewed 01 March 2014 in theaters as part of AMC Best Picture Showcase 2014)
You know what? This film was actually pretty good. Weird, but good. I really like the actress Scarlett Johansson (who voiced the intelligent AI Samantha), though I didn’t realize she was in the film until afterward. I seriously identified with the relationship talk that Theodore and Samantha had about loving someone and loving other people at the same time. That was difficult for him to take and it showed, but I truly, deeply believe what Samantha said is true: “The heart is not like a box that gets filled up; it expands in size the more you love. I’m different from you. This doesn’t make me love you any less. It actually makes me love even more.” See also the discussion at Feministing.

Captain Phillips: see One Paragraph 17
I skipped this film because I didn’t want to get seasick all over again, especially when it was only the second of five films on the second day of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase this year. Ugh.

One Paragraph 19

Nebraska (viewed 01 March 2014 in theaters as part of AMC Best Picture Showcase 2014)
A while back, my family watched Napoleon Dynamite and my father’s only comment was “If I wanted to watch real life, I’d go back to living in [rural Texas, where he grew up].” Well, that’s how I felt watching Nebraska; if I wanted to watch reality, I’d just move to rural Texas with my Grandma. /sigh/ That being said, it was a good movie, just… hard. And shot completely in shades of grey (literally). Well cast and well acted, it just felt too close to home to enjoy watching it for any extended length of time. And, unlike Napoleon Dynamite, it wasn’t even trying to be funny.

Something the Lord Made (viewed at home 23 February 2014)
The partnership between a white man with a doctoral degree and black man with a high school education literally changed the world. I learned nolitangere: do not touch the heart; ancient medical wisdom that was knocked flat on its ass when Blalock and Thomas came along. The politics at Johns Hopkins and between white and black people was despicable, and seeing how crappy people have been (are still being) treated always makes me want to take to the streets in protest. It’s gotten better, but what the hell. How has it been this long since the partnership between these men and we’re still acting like collective dickheads?? Really? Argh. /flips table/

12 Years a Slave (viewed 22 February 2014 in theaters as part of AMC Best Picture Showcase 2014)
Good, hard movie. Well performed and shot. If there’s anyone who deserves the Oscar for Best Actor, it’s the guy who played the title character, no doubt. Now, as for the film itself: difficult to watch, graphic, and at times sickening. And I realize that “the slave states were actually like that” but do we REALLY have to use the n-word over and over? And coming from white people’s mouths? If a person of color wants to use the n-word as a way to reclaim it, that’s their right, but I don’t think a white person should ever say it… in jest, on screen, or otherwise.

The Wolf of Wall Street (viewed 22 February 2014 in theaters as part of AMC Best Picture Showcase 2014)
Wow no. Just. No. Sexism, heterosexism, extensive drug use, over use of the word “fuck” (539 times in 2 hours and 50 minutes, to be exact). Ugh. I didn’t like any part of this movie. So much excess and it got old really fast. It could’ve ended in like three places, at least one of them an hour sooner than it did. Black comedy? No, just blech.

Dallas Buyers Club (viewed 22 February 2014 in theaters as part of AMC Best Picture Showcase 2014)
Decent. Of the films I saw on the first day of the showcase, I’d give this one a pretty good shot for Best Picture. It annoys me, however, that people seem to give extra credit to “hard stories”—which this story definitely is—and awards to dickwads (ie: Jared Leto) for playing “impossible” characters. I’m getting really tired of straight guys being awarded for playing gay/transgender people on screen. It’s not like there’s a dearth of gay/transgender actors who could play those parts. I don’t even want that, really, I just want people to stop lauding the guys who already have everything for pretending to be something that’s so difficult to be on screen. Real people deal with that shit every day and don’t get awarded; sometimes they don’t even survive.

One Paragraph 18

Philomena (viewed 22 February 2014 in theaters as part of AMC Best Picture Showcase 2014)
Ireland! Evil nuns! Selling babies for profit! Awkward talks about sex! “Human interest” stories! Travel abroad! What more could you want? I was angry by the end, and I’m glad Sixsmith (male protagonist) wasn’t able to forgive the nuns, either, because I sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to. Best lines:

Philomena: And after I had the sex, I thought anything that feels so lovely must be wrong.
Martin Sixsmith: Fucking Catholics.

Saving Mr. Banks (watched in theaters 26 January 2014)
Mrs. P.L. Travers was a handful, wasn’t she? Yes, but so was Walt Disney. Ugh; double standards. I liked it, I guess; I liked Colin Ferrell’s character, and then I didn’t like him because he was a drunk and a dick to his wife. Watched this for a family night; Grandma’s choice. Travers had a hard time in Los Angeles with Walt Disney (not to mention he didn’t respect her repeated request to be called “Mrs. Travers” instead of “Pamela” or “Pam”), but in the end it felt like he got what he wanted anyway? I don’t know; I like a woman who’s hard to ignore, and I don’t like a man who disrespects that, so. And now I have to watch Mary Poppins again just to see if there’s any red in the film at all.

Frozen (viewed in theaters 29 December 2013)
Saw this with family: Johnny and Trish, Mom and Dad, Bunny, and Grandma. As for my thoughts? Honestly? No. It was… not that great. It really had nothing to do with the story upon which it was based, and I just don’t even have time to go into how I really feel about the film overall. The snowman sidekick was terrible. The two men characters (Kristoff and Hans) aren’t even in the original story to begin with, the two women characters (Anna and Elsa) are suddenly sisters (really?), and the only decent character was Sven (Kristoff’s reindeer—I’m not even kidding) even though he wasn’t in the original story either. Ugh. Here, just read this. It’s how I feel.

Ender’s Game (viewed in theaters 29 November 2013)
The family saw this on a whim one Friday evening with some extended family (paternal aunt and her wife), but we weren’t exactly organized in our travel and other arrangements and we missed the first half hour. My sister and grandma saw all but the first few minutes, though, and they said that if you’d read the book, the beginning wasn’t particularly necessary since it’s basically setting up the scene and characters for audience members who have not read the book. Best line: [impatiently] “This is basic rocket science, people.” Also, I agree with the Slate review. Also, Orson Scott Card is a heterosexist dickwad.

Gravity in 3D (watched in theaters 26 October 2013)
Really good. My dad and I saw this together in 3D. Sandra Bullock basically carried the entire movie by herself. My dad works as an engineer at JPL and his primary concern, of course, was the complete lack of scientific accuracy in the main character’s traveling between the various space ships. (It was related to relative orbits around the Earth, etc., but don’t ask me to be any more specific than that.) As a civilian/commoner, however, I thought the film held up really well; artistic liberties had to be taken so that the audience wouldn’t have to sit through an astrophysics lesson, after all.

wIsr 00: why I stopped reading

I receive far too many advanced reading copies to give each book I receive a proper read and thoughtful review. I actually have to look for reasons not to continue reading because my time is valuable and I can’t afford to waste it.

In terms of scope, “why I stopped reading” (or wIsr) is similar to One Paragraph. (You can learn more about One Paragraph here.) The primary difference between them is that the books in wIsr will focus on—as you may have already guessed—why I stopped reading. One Paragraph is for things I have finished but don’t have time to give a proper, full-length interview.

So here’s how it’s going to work. I’ll include the title with an appropriate link (if any) and then explain how many pages I read, why I put the book down, and how many pages in total to give an idea of how far I got before getting fed up. I may also include the book’s genre, how it came into my possession, and in what format I received it. In some cases, I may include what I’ll be doing with my copy (ie: giving it away, donating it, or deleting it forever, etc.) and to whom, if anyone, I would deign to recommend it.

I will always try to pinpoint why I didn’t finish the book in question, but these are some common reasons I might stop:
—poor writing (sentence structure, paragraphs, etc.)
—poor spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.
—poor plot or no plot
—gender essentialism or sexism
—setting/characters not internally consistent
—offensive material (which I’ll generally specify)
—I’m lost/it’s confusing
—it’s boring

As with One Paragraph, I’ll post these in batches of five with the date I stopped reading each book listed next to the book’s title.

As a writer and editor myself, my standards for what makes a book “good” or “great” are extremely high; for instance, I usually rate on Amazon.com books I’ve read either two or three stars. Rarely will I give four stars, and when I do, I would probably recommend that book to anyone. I almost never give five stars. (To be fair to myself, though, I almost never give one star ratings, either, because I can almost always find some merit in at least the effort, if not the execution.)

Because I have such high standards—I swear my education has ruined me for any “beach reading”—I often pick up a novel, memoir, collection of poetry, or the like with high hopes and low expectations. Just because I can’t or won’t finish a book doesn’t make it bad or even poorly written, it just makes it a book that doesn’t excel the way I hoped it would. I never pick up any book expecting not to like it; I don’t have time for that bullshit.

I am critical of everything I read because I want poets and authors to excel in their field. Writing is an art, and my criticism should be seen as constructive, not derogatory.

One Paragraph 17

Captain Phillips (viewed in theaters 20 October 2013)
Grandma’s choice for family night. I was seasick almost the entire time and for the rest of the night. Turned out that nearly all of us were seasick, and my grandmother blamed it on the theater even though (1) none of us had ever had that trouble at that theater before, and (2) she was the one who picked the movie. Basically, I came away from the film sick to my stomach and completely unimpressed with my grandmother’s lack of ability to take any responsibility for herself and her own actions. =_=

Pacific Rim (viewed in theaters 22 September 2013)
Took my sister and father to see this film in the cheap theater at the insistence of the tumblr community haha. (I’m not actually kidding.) It was basically a standard science fiction large monsters movie with two primary exceptions. First, there were characters of color in prominent position in the cast and plot. Second, the film had a really good lead woman… a lead woman whom the lead man respected from the very beginning. It didn’t pass the Bechdel Test, but it inspired an entirely new kind of “does your film have ‘strong women’ in it?” test: the Mako Mori Test.

The Three Lives of Thomasina (watched at home 11 August 2013)
Grandma’s choice for family night. It used two separate orange cats for Thomasina, and honestly? Eh. I wouldn’t have picked it. The plot was lacking, the best character was the cat’s owner’s father, and he wasn’t in the film nearly enough for my tastes. Eh, it was okay. It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t that good. It was just… eh.

Much Ado About Nothing (watched in theaters 21 June 2013)
Viewed in theaters with family; my choice family night. Honestly, I chose the film because, really, who doesn’t like Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof? It’s Shakespeare, so my grandmother couldn’t really complain. I think the director, Joss Whedon, did what he could to mitigate the original play’s inherent sexism, but one can only do so much without actually changing that many of the lines, etc. It was good, and I’d watch it again, but I probably wouldn’t buy it for my personal collection. (That being said, I probably wouldn’t by any films of Shakespearean plays for myself, except possibly The Merchant of Venice.) Not sure my grandma really understood any of it, though, even though it was acceptable because it was Shakespeare and anything by Shakespeare is acceptable by default.

Supernatural, season 8 (watched at home June 2013)
Okay, so I’ve seen all of Supernatural that there is to see up to this point (mid-June 2013). I fell in love with the brothers’ relationship at the very beginning, and I haven’t been disappointed even once through all 172 episodes (eight seasons) that have been broadcast. I want a bond so close and so deep that I would do anything for the other person, and that person would do anything for me. There were in season 8, of course, a couple dud episodes, but that’s to be expected with a series that’s gone on as long as this series has. The screen writing is terrific; the actors are phenomenal. I am most definitely adding the box sets to my collection when I get the chance. As predicted, Supernatural is absolutely in my top five favorite American TV shows of all time.

One Paragraph 16

The Great Impostor (viewed at home 16 June 2013)
Grandma’s choice for family night. She picked from two films: one her daughter’s favorite, and the other her favorite (of the two). I don’t know what the other choice was. This film is loosely based on the real life story of Ferdinand Waldo Demara. The film Catch Me if You Can was also mentioned in discussion afterward, and I had to look up the films to make sure that they weren’t about the same person. (They’re not, though both films are based on real life impostors.) This film was decent. Black and white, kind of slow for my taste, and I thought it dragged in a couple places, but it wasn’t a bad film by any means. I’m kinda glad my grandmother is dragging out all this old films (from her era) because I’m getting a film education without even trying. I can’t fault her taste in films; it’s just that she hasn’t seen anything recently that she thinks is worthwhile… but isn’t that always the case? ^_^

Tokyo Godfathers (viewed at home 09 June 2013)
One of my sister’s favorite movies and her choice for family night, which is about what it sounds like. We picked up movie popcorn at the theater and slushees and candy at a nearby 7/11 before heading home again to watch this film in Japanese with English subtitles. (I’m pretty sure our parents would’ve insisted on watching it dubbed if that had been an option, but it wasn’t, so subtitles had to do.) And you know what?—it’s actually a really good movie; I don’t know if it was because my bar was set so low, but I was rather impressed. Recently, I’ve discovered that movies and stories about straight people doing straight things is…. well, seriously boring, so I was pleased that Tokyo Godfathers shook it up a bit. One of the main characters is transgender, for example, and it made me happy… except that the character herself was played off as more a caricature than an actual person. (I know, I know; I’m never happy, right? Well, no; I just have high expectations for “good literature and film”.) But on the plus side, she didn’t die at the end, so that’s good right? (So, yes, in some ways, my expectations are pathetically low.) But, I digress. My grandmother couldn’t read the subtitles, so my mother read all of them to her. Well, she wouldn’t say the word “queer” and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it at that moment… even though it is a big deal. I’m not sure she even realized how… not okay that was. It’s making me upset to think about it any further, and maybe I’ll unpack it someday, but this short(ish) review isn’t that day. Bottom line: good movie. Watch it.

Supernatural, season 7 (viewed at home late May—early June 2013)
Leviathan? Really? Can’t Sam and Dean ever catch a break? I mean, these poor guys, saving the world multiple times and it’s unlikely (and getting more unlikely?) that they’ll even survive it to the end. Supernatural really is in my top five favorite American/English TV shows of all time, but damn; I just feel awful that these brothers have basically sacrificed everything—over and over—in order to keep this world turning, so to speak. I feel the same way about them that I did about Angel (title character in Angel, a show also in my top five) when he literally signed away his soul in order to get enough shit together to prevent the world from figuratively collapsing in on itself. Just… jeez.

Iron Man 3 (viewed in theaters 22 May 2013)
My best friend and I went to see this in theaters in the middle of the week (partially to avoid people… which was only partially successful, I’m afraid). I drove, he paid. It was all right. The first one is still better. I liked Pepper Potts better in this one, though, at least somewhat because she actually had a decent role in the film and saved Tony’s ass literally this time instead of just figuratively. As I said, the film was all right. Not enough people of color, not enough non-heterosexual relationships; I’m getting really tired of the same thing over and over and while Iron Man 3 is good if I just want to turn off my brain (more shit blowing up?? who knew?), it’s not particularly good for anything else. Meh.

Star Trek Into Darkness (viewed in theaters 16 May 2013)
I did indeed get to see Into Darkness with my father, brother, and sister (and a few of my brother’s friends) in Waco, Texas, on the eve of my brother’s graduation from college. Basically, it’s a remixing of Wrath of Khan, and while I think the actor who played Khan in this new film is a pretty good actor (BBC Sherlock!!), KHAN IS A PERSON OF COLOR, GODSDAMNIT. I just… I couldn’t even talk about it (as a problematic aspect of the movie) with the rest of the group because everyone was completely oblivious to the whole thing; white people, after all, are represented well in film and television. Also, WHERE WERE ALL THE WOMEN LEADERS IN THE FUTURE?? WTF, JJ Abrams… Gene Rodenberry would be ashamed of you. Ugh. It was okay, but it could’ve been so. much. better.

One Paragraph 15

Star Trek (viewed at home 11 May 2013)
I actually saw this film in theaters when it came out in 2009. I was still living in New York City at the time, and I remember being irritated with the fabricated relationship between Spock and Uhura. When my grandma, my dad, and I sat down to watch it again, it was my grandmother’s first time. (She ended up liking it and wanted “another episode with the same actors”, so there’s that.) My dad and I talked most of the way through it in quips and incredulity, but in the end, the music was the best. It was great in the 60s (or so I’ve heard), and why fix something when it’s not broken, right? Anyway, my brother’s already announced that he and my dad will be seeing the new movie when it comes out and the family is in Texas in mid-May 2013 for my brother’s college graduation. So, we (re)watched this film partially in order to prepare for that. I’m not sure I’ll get to see it with my father and brother in Texas, but I’m sure I’ll watch the new one sometime.

42 (viewed in theaters 05 May 2013)
Grandma’s choice for family night. Decent. I’m not a huge baseball fan, but if I had a favorite team, it would be the Brooklyn Dodgers. The film fails the Bechdel test, but I suppose it’s a man’s world then and now. -_- I don’t like movies like this (see also: The Blind Side and others) because they just end up making white people feel like we weren’t as bad as we actually were… and still are. It makes white people feel like Racism Is Over, when it’s so obviously not. Ugh. I mean. Just… ugh.

Supernatural, season 6 (viewed at home late April—mid-May 2013)
Okay, so Sammy is back together in one piece… sorta. Castiel’s gone darkside… apparently. Dean’s completely removed himself from Lisa and Ben’s lives… ALL MY FEELS. I just… T_T I want to yell at them all to get the fuck over themselves and be a family again because SERIOUSLY. All this angst. But the more I watch this series, the more I want to write something about sibling relationships in media (film/TV, literature, etc). I’ll put that on my to-do list hahaha. >_>

The Dark Knight Rises (viewed at home 01 May 2013)
I saw The Dark Knight in theaters in 2008 probably ten times, but unfortunately, I never saw Rises even once. I decided one afternoon, after having a bunch of appointments cancelled on me, that I wanted to see the latter, so I met up with my best friend and we rented it. (Novel idea: renting a DVD!) It was… good, but I must admit it felt really long by the end. I thought the “romance” between Bruce Wayne and Miranda Tate was totally contrived and fan-servicey. Ugh. I read up about their backstory, so I get it, but still. I called Robin easily, though I later found out that that character was created specifically for the film and wasn’t an already-existing character. Bane was… hammy, and I didn’t like that so much, but I suppose not every villain can be dark and maniacally insane like I like them. I did like Selina Kyle and Commissioner Gordon. I was expecting more Batman and less Bruce Wayne, but I also thought the storyline was more gritty and realistic than fantastic, at least until the very end. Also, Scarecrow’s appearance as judge was awesome. “Your guilt has already been determined; this is just a sentencing.” Also also, the film utterly and completely fails the Bechdel Test. The film was good, but I liked The Dark Knight much better. Then B mentioned (again, apparently?) that he’s still never seen Batman Begins, so that’s obviously next on the list.

Supernatural, season 5 (viewed at home April 2013)
I can’t even. Sam… and then Dean… and then Sam… and Castiel… and Dean… I can’t. Overall, I think this about sums it up.